If Nick Castellanos opts out of contract this winter, Cubs should pick up phoneRussell Dorseyon August 24, 2021 at 1:07 am

The Cubs have been looking for some cohesiveness in their offense since 2017. While there have been times since then when it looked as though they had found a rhythm, sustaining that was easier said than done.

It’s no secret that the Cubs have struggled with putting the ball in play. But with Nick Madrigal, whom they acquired from the White Sox in the deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, and Nico Hoerner expected to play a big role up the middle next season, the team has started to make some changes to its offensive profile.

When Madrigal and Hoerner are healthy, their bat-to-ball skills can change the dynamic of a lineup, and their strengths should be a benefit as the Cubs look to build their next playoff team.

Still, despite the Cubs’ desire for more contact, home runs are still the name of the game in Major League Baseball, and being able to slug is a key attribute of a successful postseason roster.

The Cubs’ roster is going to undergo some serious changes before the start of next season. And with Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo gone, the team needs to find an impact bat as it rebuilds its offense.

That’s not to say Bryant, Baez, Rizzo and holdover Willson Contreras weren’t talented offensive players. They were — at least individually. But getting them to mesh together as part of a cohesive offense was a struggle.

Another familiar name, however, has a chance to become a centerpiece of a new-look Cubs lineup next season and would fill a few needs the team would like to address offensively.

Outfielder Nick Castellanos always has been the one that got away — not only for Cubs fans, but for the front office, too. When the Cubs acquired him from the Tigers at the trade deadline in 2019, he seemed to be the perfect fit in Chicago. Not only did he mesh with the Cubs’ roster offensively, but he provided a jolt of energy the team had been lacking.

But the Cubs failed to keep Castellanos around, watching him sign a four-year, $64 million free-agent deal with Reds. Since leaving Chicago, he hasn’t just maintained his high level of performance but raised it, putting himself in the conversation of the best hitters in the National League.

While Castellanos is under contract, he has an opt-out clause in his deal he can exercise after this season. If he opts to do so, he would join a star-studded free-agent class this winter, and the Cubs should consider bringing him back.

Castellanos, 29, not only has shown himself to be an elite hitter, but he also has been hitting for power since getting out of cavernous Comerica Park in Detroit. Despite various injuries this season, he’s slashing .319/.377/.568 with 22 home runs and 70 RBI.

One of the issues that might work against a Cubs-Castellanos reunion, however, is where he would fit in their plans. While he would be the best hitter on the market, he’s slightly older than other impending free agents, such as Baez, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager.

While president Jed Hoyer has said he doesn’t expect the Cubs’ retool to be a lengthy one, Castellanos might not fit the Cubs’ timeline over the next few years.

There’s no guarantee Castellanos will be on the market this winter, and the Cubs have to be serious about spending to make such a move happen. But there aren’t many bats around baseball like Castellanos’, and if there’s a chance to bring a lineup-altering bat into an offense that needs one, it might be worth exploring.

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